To date, Africa has successfully hosted three major international sporting events: the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup and – the biggest of them all – the 2010 Football World Cup.
All of these were staged in South Africa, although Zimbabwe and Kenya were given the green light to play their pool games in the Cricket World Cup at home. This gave a truly African feel to a game that is often regarded as elitist.
Now, fresh from a satisfactory outing to the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London, Africa has announced that it will bid to host the event in 2025. The continent’s capacity to do so is unquestionable, given that it has hosted three flagship tournaments of the world’s top three sporting disciplines.
Africa proved its critics wrong
“People said that Africa could not host the World Cup in football, but we did it very successfully,” said Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, president of the Confederation of African Athletics. “We are talking to Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco – those countries have the facilities.”
Africa’s sporting facilities are a major concern to many, but they really should not be. South Africa, the continent’s leading nation in this regard, has proven time and again that it has the sporting infrastructure to match some of the best the world has to offer.
Kenya, Africa’s most successful athletics country, has also seen its dominance on the track as a sign to upgrade its facilities, and the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi is world class.
Team Nigeria’s poor showing in London was met with disgust at the way the team’s trip was managed
The continent’s recent performance at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in itself is a boost for the bid. Kenya finished second on the medal table, after the United States. This is a mammoth achievement for the East African nation, even though it is one step backward, given that it topped the table at the previous games in Beijing.
South Africa, arguably Africa’s greatest sporting nation, went to London with a medal target of 12. They fell short of that, but sentiment across the Rainbow Nation was that the half-dozen they won was ultimately not a failure. Overall, South Africa finished third on the medal table, and with Kenya coming second, it means that African nations came in second and third. That is no mean feat, considering the great sporting countries that were positioned below us: Great Britain, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, Japan. And with long-distance specialists Ethiopia coming in at number seven, we had three African nations in the top 10.
As far as individuals are concerned, a great disappointment for South Africa – and indeed the continent – was the performance of sprint sensation Wayde Van Niekerk, seen by many as heir apparent to the iconic Usain Bolt, in the 200m race. Although he had won gold in the 400m, Van Nierkerk, who is the Olympic 200m champion, was beaten into second place in the 200m by Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev.
When poor sports management shows…
Among the major disappointments was the performance of Nigeria, which failed to win a single medal. It is true that Nigeria is a footballing nation and a continental giant in that sport, but more is expected of the country in other sporting disciplines, especially athletics. After all, as Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria has the deepest talent pool and so many people it could potentially train.
There is a need for the governments on our continent to provide increased funding and improved management in sport.
Not surprisingly, Team Nigeria’s poor showing in London was met with disgust at the way the team’s trip was managed. According to Tosin Oke, the reigning African champion in the triple jump, the west African nation’s failure is due to the lack of support from the country’s governing body, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). Oke could well have been speaking for many other African countries.
There is a need for the governments on our continent to provide increased funding and improved management in sport, as Zimbabwe’s Minister of Sport and Recreation, Makhosini Hlongwane, noted in a press conference in Harare on 22 August 2017, following his country’s failure to make an impression in London. “[A]s government we take part of the blame,” he said. “We haven’t done nearly enough to support sport. We were not represented in London. That must never happen again. We are formulating a sport policy that enables government to play a big role in unearthing and preparing athletes for such events as the World Athletics Championships.”
One can only hope that his words lead to action – and that other countries on the African continent will follow.